Saturday, July 13, 2024

Why technology is the major catalyst to the green energy revolution

After a few false starts, energy companies are finally looking to transition away from fossil fuels and adopt more sustainable forms of energy production in the future.

In fact, it is predicted that renewables’ share of the power generation mix is set to rise to over a third by 2025. Whilst a major catalyst has been increased consumer demand for renewable energy, another has been the emergence of innovative technologies that have facilitated this green energy revolution. Software, in particular, has been playing a significant role in how the industry has been able to build the systems and processes necessary to clean up its act. But what have been the key areas and what new technologies are we likely to see emerge in 2024?

Software is at the fore

Innovative software is already facilitating everything from providing an end-to-end connected journey for energy sales, to managing risk at a time of unprecedented price volatility. However, as the industry moves towards net zero, it is in the areas of solar, electric vehicles (EVs) and heat pumps that software will perhaps be seen the most.

The market for solar continues to scale rapidly worldwide. Whilst there are not too many incumbent IT stacks to circumvent, the solar installation process itself is complex. Luckily, a whole host of software solutions have emerged to digitise the solar lifecycle. Central to this has been those that ensure that the solar farms themselves are placed in the optimum locations. As solar adoption continues to swell this year, we will only see more software solutions emerging to facilitate the change.

By the end of the decade, EVs are projected to represent the majority of new car sales, with everyone from Mercedes to Mazda launching models. Software is already touching every aspect of the value chain, from battery analytics, to charging, to fleet electrification. Yet, in 2024 I predict there will be more solutions launched that build on top of existing charging offerings to provide billing and payment solutions that strengthen the ecosystem.

There are, of course, government grants available to encourage end users to switch from traditional gas boilers to modern heat pumps. Yet, the recently announced Heat Pump Ready Programme grants to support innovation in the sector is what will likely drive it forward in 2024. Software will become increasingly instrumental in facilitating heat pump design, speeding up proposal creation, and improving the time it takes for contractors to assess a home’s readiness for heat pumps.

Huge data sets

Like most industries, the energy sector is starting to use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to streamline mundane tasks and reduce the propensity for manual errors. In an industry such as energy, the latter is particularly important as the ramifications of an error can be catastrophic.

AI is particularly effective on the forecasting side where there are huge data sets to sift through. This is particularly relevant now. Whereas with fossil fuels demand used to be the variable, supply was relatively constant. However, with renewable energy it has switched 180 degrees. A windfarm is not particularly useful without wind and a solar farm is not especially useful without the sun. Therefore, optimum weather forecasting is imperative so that energy suppliers can make informed decisions and load balance the network effectively. Remember, though, that AI is only as good as the data that flows into it.

Ensuring energy genealogy

I am particularly buoyed to see data driving accountability within the sector. In the past, certain more unscrupulous suppliers have been accused of using deceitful marketing gimmicks to exaggerate their environmentally friendly actions. However, consumers are remarkably savvy, and those suppliers have recognised the need to leave such ‘greenwashing’ behind and become accountable.

Ensuring energy genealogy throughout the supply chain has been difficult due to energy becoming increasingly decentralised as it has become decarbonised. . However, technology such as Internet of Things (IOT) sensors can facilitate accountability by collecting energy data from a whole host of distributed devices. This data can then be used to produce a certificate of authenticity – such as a Renewable Energy Certificate (RECs) – that proves that the energy generated is from the renewable sources it claims.

As data becomes more prevalent and accessible in 2024, energy management solutions will also become more precise, amplifying the benefits customers can derive from renewable energy. They will be able to save on energy costs, whether by procuring energy from the cheapest supplier or facilitating energy use when rates are cheapest.

A step change

The industry’s combined move towards net zero has led to a need for software to both optimise physical asset performance and increase the accountability of the supporting energy ecosystem. There has been a step change. So much so that some legacy oil and gas service providers now view themselves as technology service providers. For example, oilfield services giant Schlumberger has rebranded itself as a digital services provider and supporter of cleaner energies.

In 2024, the technologies needed to address our energy challenges will take many forms, from AI being used to better forecast the weather to IOT sensors being used to provide the intelligence to optimise delivery. Yet there is no doubt that technology has become the key enabler to the green energy revolution.

Matt Tormollen

Matt brings over 20 years of executive leadership in global, venture-backed businesses. His experience in building high-performing teams that deliver demonstrable customer value in downstream energy through scalable cloud solutions drives POWWR’s strategic focus. He has a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.